You came to terms with your wife walking out on you and filing for divorce. You can't stand that she took the kids with her. In New York, you have rights that you can assert as the children's father. Understanding basic facts about custody here can help you as you embark on the quest to remain a part of your child's life.
Best interests of the child
New York law bases child custody decisions on what is in the best interests of the child. This might differ from one child to another, even in the same case. As you fight for your children, you need to know what the court will consider, such as: each parent's work schedule; ability to care for the child; ability to work with the other parent, and mental and physical health. Still, income and resources don't automatically qualify a parent as the best option for custody. Instead, the love and way the parent can raise the child is what matters principally.
Physical vs. legal custody
The court orders two types of custody in most cases - physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the parent who takes care of the child, supervises the child and has the child with them. The court might spilt physical custody in any manner that is in the child's best interests. This can mean that one parent has sole physical custody or that the parents split the physical custody.
Legal custody refers to who makes decisions for the child. The court decides each category individually. Decisions include medical, educational, faith-based and other categories. Court orders can stipulate that all decisions in all categories are jointly made by both parents. They may also stipulate that one parent has decision-making responsibilities in each category. Understanding exactly how the court order requires decision-making to occur can help you to ensure you are within compliance.
Custody orders aren't always permanent
Whether you and your ex-wife come to an agreement or if the court orders decides on child custody matters, you can seek a modification if the circumstances warrant it. This can include when circumstances change, such as your child's wishes or specific activities. Child custody modifications are ordered by the court or handled through mediation. Certain factors must be present in modification petitions. Make sure your case includes these if you want to seek a modification.